Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday issued a stern warning to businesses ignoring public health orders against large gatherings and advice about social distancing and disinfection.
“This simply must stop. I implore you, please, do what is right,” DeWine said, adding that as he considers his next moves, he’ll err on the side of protecting lives. “So, no announcement today but the bad behavior, the reckless behavior, must stop.”
Again, he advised Ohioans that the ban on mass gatherings, closures and social distancing could be extended. “We can’t panic over this because we’re going to be doing this for a while,” he said.
Ohio confirmed its first death from coronavirus — a prominent Republican attorney from Lucas County who DeWine said he considered a friend — and the total cases rose to 169.
Mark Wagoner Sr., was a member of the Lucas County Board of Elections and his son Mark Wagoner Jr. served in the Ohio Senate.
DeWine referenced Psalms 23 and said, “To my fellow Ohioans, for a while it’s going to seem like we are in fact living in the valley of death, it’ll seem like we’re living in a valley of that shadow, but we will get through this. The sun will shine again.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted asked Ohioans to be patient, cooperative and respectful of one another, especially at grocery stores. He noted that he received a report of a fight breaking out over toilet paper in a grocery store.
“C’mon folks, we have to be better than that,” Husted said.
Other actions announced Friday include:
• Senior citizen centers and senior citizen day care centers will close at the end of business Monday and steps are being taken to deliver meals and services to their homes.
• The Ohio Department of Insurance is mandating that insurers give employers a grace period to continue health insurance for employees, even if their hours drop. Premium payments may be deferred interest-free for up to 60 calendar days.
• DeWine joined governors of Illinois, Washington and Alaska in sending a letter to President Trump asking that he unlock funds in the disaster unemployment account so that independent contractors and other employees are eligible for jobless benefits.
• No order has been issued to close daycare centers yet.
DeWine said he plans to discuss the Ohio primary date and logistics with lawmakers. He said he doesn’t know if Ohio can conduct an in-person election while conducting a war on coronavirus.
“At a minimum, we want significant enough time for people to be able to obtain and return absentee ballots,” the governor said.
In-person voting scheduled for March 17 was canceled when Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton signed a public health order closing the 3,650 polling locations to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, called Friday for a vote-by-mail only primary.
“We cannot predict the spread of the virus will be better in April, May or June, so the only way to hold this election with minimum risk for voters and poll workers alike is to conduct vote-by-mail only, a proven, secure system that’s already up and running in other states,” she said in a written statement. “We cannot risk further chaos and jeopardize the health of everyday Ohioans by scheduling another in-person primary during this deadly pandemic.”
The Ohio Department of Health call center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. and can be reached at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634). Online information is available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
The ODH website reports that the 169 confirmed cases are spread across 28 counties and include 39 people hospitalized.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has an extensive list of answers to frequently asked questions, sorted by category, at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov. The CDC also regularly posts the latest news on COVID-19 on the website.
Acton noted that someone who tests negative for COVID-19 now might still be infected later and spread it to others.
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